A federal judge today dismissed a pair of suits brought by a group of Indonesian villagers who accused Exxon Mobil of abetting human rights violations, ruling that the plaintiffs lacked standing.
In his six-page opinion dealing with both cases, Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that the villagers could not sue in U.S. court because they were non-resident aliens, and because the issues in the case pertained entirely to Indonesia. The plaintiffs alleged that they were terrorized by soldiers Exxon had hired to protect a natural gas plant in the war-torn region of Aceh. They first filed suit in 2001, then added a second suit in 2007.
“[P]laintiffs allege that members of the Indonesian military committed the torts, and the alleged torts were committed during a period of martial law,” Lamberth wrote. “The Court can see no reason to find that plaintiffs have standing in this unique factual context. Indeed, where a non-resident alien ‘is harmed in his own country, he cannot and should not expect entitlement to the advantages of a United States court.’”
The 2001 case survived a previous attempt to dismiss it when the first judge to oversee the suit, Senior Judge Louis Oberdorfer, threw out its counts under the Alien Tort Claims Act, but allowed it to proceed under state law issues.
The villagers are represented by a legal team led by Agnieszka Fryszman of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll and Terry Collingsworth of Conrad & Scherer. Exxon is represented by a team including Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison partners Alex Oh and Theodore Wells, and Martin Weinstein of Wilkie Farr & Gallagher.